School mask requirements since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic

Seven states ended their school mask requirements from Feb. 1 through March 1, leaders in seven other states announced these mandates would end between March 2 and March 12. Only one state, Hawaii, has not announced an end to its school mask requirement.

Thirty-five states have required masks in schools at some point since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some states issued mask requirements specifically covering schools. Other school mask requirements were by-products of a general statewide mask requirement.

Maryland and Washington were the first states to issue school reopening guidance requiring masks in schools, both on June 10, 2020. Governor Jay Inslee (D) announced Washington’s school mask requirement would end on March 12, and Maryland’s State Board of Education ended its mask requirement effective March 1.

Wyoming was the latest school to issue its first school mask requirement. It lasted from Dec. 7, 2020, to June 1, 2021. North Dakota had the shortest statewide school mask requirement. It lasted from Nov. 14, 2020, to Jan. 18, 2021.

Nine states have banned school mask requirements, five of which had previously required masks in schools. Arkansas’ ban was the first to take effect on April 28, 2021. The ban was later suspended by court action on Sept. 30, 2021.

Virginia most recently banned school mask requirements on Jan. 24, 2022. A court overturned Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) executive order to that effect on Feb. 4, but Youngkin subsequently signed a bill into law banning school mask requirements. That law takes effect on March 1.

For states with statewide mask requirements in place going into the 2020-2021 academic year, we used the release date of school reopening guidance as the beginning of the state’s school mask requirement. Note that some school mask requirement end dates are approximate since they were set to end on the final day of school for each school district in the state. The charts above also only show school mask requirements and bans that took effect, so bans and requirements that were overturned before their effective date are not included.